At the instance of his mother, Ralphie slowly began to clean up his room. He didn't realize what a chore it would be until he started to sort through the clothes that covered the carpeted floor.

An hour and a half later, he put the last shirt back on the rack and hung it in the closet.
Whew! What a relief. Exhausted, he sat down on his bed. The soft mattress looked so inviting that he couldn't resist laying his head on his pillow.

Before he knew it, he had drifted off to sleep...

"Okay, Ralphie! You'd better surrender if you know what's good for you!" Black Bart said.

"Not so fast, Bart. You're gonna get yours." Ralphie replied. He squinted as he pointed the rifle directly at his most feared enemy. If he aimed just right, Bart should be pushing up daises in no time! He smiled mischievously at the thought and slowly pulled the trigger.

"BANG!"

Ralphie bolted upright on his bed; his heart racing like a freight train. He glanced out the window, horrified when he realized that the sky was turning soft and purple.

And in the driveway was his father's Oldsmobile!

Oh no!

"#&*%!" His father yelled.

Ralphie pressed his ear to the cold window, curious to know why his father had started yet another swearing fit.
"Dag nabbit, another blowout! I swear I'm gonna sue that mechanic!" His father yelled.

Ralphie laughed, momentarily forgetting that his life would soon hang in the balance. Minutes later, the front door closed, jolting Ralphie back to the present. In mere seconds, his father would find out what he had done, and sparks were sure to fly.

"RALPHIE!"

His father's voice resonated throughout the house like a clap of thunder.

"Get down here, on the double!"

Ralphie ran into the living room faster than a jackrabbit on a date, thankful that his rugged pants hid his shaking knees.

His father glared at Ralphie, hands on his hips. Ralphie wasn't sure but he could have sworn he saw steam coming from the old man's ears.

"Ralphie, Miss Shields called this afternoon and spoke to your mother. Apparently you've been having some trouble at school? And what's this about turning your room into a giant laundry hamper? Clothes belong in the closet or in a drawer. Not on the carpet! What has gotten into you?"

"I-uh... well, I ..."

His mother sighed. "All right, Ralphie. If you won't tell us, then we have no choice but to punish you. Your father and I have discussed this and we've decided that starting right now, your Red Ryder is off-limits. That means no playing with it at all which includes gun fights with Flick and Schwartz. Do you understand me?"

"Yes ma'am."

Whew! That was a relief. He was home-free!

"Now go upstairs right now and bring me your gun. I'm putting it out of sight until your punishment is over." His mother continued.

Ralphie froze. Oh no... Pulverized!

"But Mom..."
"Right now, young man! I'm very disappointed in you, Ralphie!" His mother said.

"But Mom, you can't take my Red Ryder away! You just can't!"

"Ralph Parker, if I have to drag you upstairs to get that gun, you're gonna wish you had never gotten a Red Ryder!" his mother said in a tone that meant business.

"No! I can't!" Ralphie yelled. This was worse than he ever imagined!

"Ralphie, I'm not going to tell you again. Now you'd better have a good reason for disobeying me, Mister! Now out with it!"

Ralphie stared at his family; all of whom were glaring at him.

"Why can't you bring me your gun?"

"Because... I can't find it! I lost it!" Ralphie blurted out. To his astonishment, he began to sob.

"Ralph, really! How could you be so irresponsible? I mean-."

"Just a second, Honey." His father said.

Ralph looked up in surprise. What was going on?

"Ralph, I want to talk to you." His father said.

Timidly, Ralphie nodded, and the room grew eerily silent. Here it comes; Ralphie's impending doom.

"I-I didn't mean to lose it, honest! Cross my heart and hope to die!" Ralphie said in a trembling voice.

His father rose from his favorite chair and walked up the stairs.

"Where are you going, Dear?" His mom asked.

Ignoring his wife, Ralphie's father continued to walk up the stairs, returning a minute later. "Um, Ralph? Close your eyes..."

Ralphie shut his eyes so tightly that it gave him a headache. All of a sudden, he heard his mother gasp.

"What are you doing with that?" She asked.

Ralphie swallowed hard, prepared for a walloping that was unlike any other known to kid-dom.

"Okay, Ralph. Open your eyes." His father said.

Ralphie slowly opened his eyes, gasping at the sight. For in his father's hand was the illusive Red Ryder BB gun!

Ralphie opened his mouth, too stunned to speak.
The old man smiled and turned to his wife. "I'm afraid that I'm the one who should be punished."

"What are you talking about, Honey?" His mother replied.

"Well, I wanted to surprise Ralph for his birthday, so I took his Red Ryder up to Higbee's and had it all spruced up for him." His father explained. "It's all cleaned, oiled and ready to go." Then, a laugh. "Heck, I almost forgot how much you love that gun! I didn't figure you'd know it was missing until I went to put it back!"

"Well, I 'm glad that's settled!" His mother said, much too cheerfully. "Now Ralph, don't think this means that you're off the hook; not by a long shot!"

"Listen, I'm sorry Ralph." His father added. "I looked high and low for that Red Ryder. That's some hiding place you've got there. I almost didn't-."

Before the old man could finish, a smile spread across Ralphie's face. Unable to stop himself, he ran across the room and flung himself into his father's arms.

"Oh my..." His mother said as tears filled her eyes.

"What's this?" His father asked, hugging Ralphie tightly.

"Thank you for finding my Red Ryder." Ralphie said.

His parents looked at each other in disbelief. Heck, Ralphie could hardly believe it himself!

He loved his father.

After a few minutes Ralphie let go. He took Randy's hand and led him up the stairs. "Come on, Randy. We've got homework to do."

When the house was quiet once more, his mother turned to his father. "What was that all about?"
"I'm not sure, but make a note of it for Santa Claus, will you?" His father answered with a wink.

THE END